Monday, February 7, 2011

Herald Sun Article: Call to use F1 cash on regional tourism

Herald Sun Article: Call to use F1 cash on regional tourism
  • Phillip Hudson
  • From: Herald Sun
  • February 07, 2011 12:02AM

THE Baillieu Government should use the $50 million taxpayer subsidy for the Formula One Grand Prix to promote tourism in flood-hit communities, says a federal Labor MP.

Kelvin Thomson has written to Premier Ted Baillieu asking him to consider other ways to spend the money when the contract expires.

"This money could be better spent on other ventures," says the letter seen by the Herald Sun.

"I am writing to request that the Victorian Government give consideration to ceasing to financially subsidise the Grand Prix and to re-allocating the money saved towards building and promoting tourism in northern Victoria."

 It comes after Melbourne's Lord Mayor Robert Doyle last month said the Albert Park race no longer offered value for money.

Cr Doyle said it had cost taxpayers $1.7 million in 1996, last year it was close to $50 million and by the time the contract ends in 2015 it could be $70 million a year.

The Government can terminate the GP contract, but race supporters say it gives Victoria better international tourism exposure than any other event with a TV audience of 350 million people in 132 countries.

Mr Thomson, who holds the Coburg seat of Wills and is a former state MP, said flood-affected towns such as Rochester, Echuca and Kerang and newer national parks such as Lower Goulburn, Barmah and Gunbower had great tourism potential.

"No doubt the Grand Prix provides tourism benefits for Melbourne, but perhaps the floods and indeed the terrible bushfires of 2009, mean that more of our tourism investments ought to go beyond what is, after all, a rapidly growing and prosperous capital city," he writes.

Mr Thomson says he understands the Government needs to honour existing contracts but when they expire, the flood damaged towns would still need help.

"The damage caused by the floods (is) extensive and likely to be long lasting, so that money which becomes available to promote tourism in northern Victoria and build tourism infrastructure, would nevertheless be very useful indeed."

Tourism Minister Louise Asher said Mr Thomson should remember the contract was signed by the Brumby Labor Government until 2015.

"He should focus his efforts on ensuring the Gillard Government delivers the best assistance possible for Victoria's flood affected communities," Ms Asher said.

She said flood hit communities would get immediate and long-term support from the Baillieu Government.

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